Posts Tagged ‘MBA’
Should I do my MBA at Harvard, London Business School, Wharton, or just carry on with my job and forget about this whole MBA business?
The 2015 Financial Times ranking came out today with the top three business Schools in the world being Harvard, London Business School and Wharton.
Before I answer the question “Do I need an MBA”, I have a question for you. Why do companies value MBA graduates from these business schools?
Do you think it is because they have a good education? Do you think it is because they are clever? Do you think it is because they have demonstrated some sort of social skills?
Of course these factors are important, but you can also have all of these things without an MBA.
I mean let’s take a step back and ask, what is the point of an MBA? You can pick up Josh Kauffman’s book ‘The Personal MBA’, do some online courses and get the material off a friend and you are pretty much learning the exact same thing right?
Well there are many arguments for an MBA, one of the main ones being the network you build, but the most interesting one I will focus on will be something I didn’t initially think of before having this conversation with one of the leading Strategy professors at London Business School.
Before I tell you what our discussion was about, I first need to explain the concept of a firm’s signalling policy. If a company like Facebook has a great project that they think they can make money out of, (e.g. the Occulus Rift), they can take on some debt to finance and invest in this project. When a company that size takes on the right amount of debt, the “markets” usually react positively. This is because people in the “market” are considered as “clever” and know that well established companies are only going to take on debt if they are sure they have a good project. In other words, they are putting their money where their mouth is, rather than being all talk and just make an announcement saying “we have a great project coming up that will make us a lot of money”.
In the same way an MBA student is kind of like a company. He/she takes on debt to pay his/her MBA tuition fees, which can take on numbers such as £60k+. Firms see this as a signal and place their trust in an MBA student’s abilities. They are thus willing to pay them six figure salaries as the signalling concept shows how strongly the MBA believes in his/her potential.
A lot of the world is based on beliefs and expectations of the future. This is just some food for thought for those who hear about how much it costs to do an MBA and think “Do I really need an MBA”.. “I mean Wow, that is a lot of dollar”.
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Apparently this is the most liked picture of the year by us students – thought you’d like to see it.
Nearly one week after finishing the last exams, and enjoying a relaxing holiday in the beach, I think it’s now a good moment to reflect on Term 1 and London Business School.
When I think about the fact that I started at LBS nearly 5 months ago, I question whether my feel for time is seriously distorted, because it feels like yesterday that I went to the Orientation day, and they called out all the different nationalities represented in the class.
So what can I say about those first 5 months?
Intense. Really intense.
The academic workload is high, and you are bombarded in lots of different directions from club opportunities to career services requests. A couple of people told me: why on Earth did I come here? I had my job, earning money, and now I am swamped with assignments, some of which I wonder their application in my future job. There were a couple of days when I myself thought: I need to slow down a bit, otherwise I will burn out. But it’s ok. It’s a different environment. After all, you go back to the student life. But you spend a full weekend without mentioning the name LBS and you come back on Monday all reinvigorated and ready to rise up to the challenge.
Looking back, this intensity, at least on the academic front, is necessary. People start with very different backgrounds and they need to level the playing field, and fast, if everyone wants to be able to follow the class and have access to the same roles. I have learnt so much… I started without any knowledge in practically any of the topics (except for maybe a little in data,models and decisions), and now I feel confident in reading financial statements of a company, I can do valuation, I can analyse a strategy, I understand significantly more about microeconomics, I know how to do a Montecarlo simulation… The amount of stuff that you get exposed to in term 1 is large, and it’s good, because I find all of it very valuable.
Outside of the academics, you have more flexibility – you decide how many clubs you are involved in or how many activities you take on.
It’s funny to recognise a certain illness that only develops in business schools. They call it FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out. It’s quite impressive to see how easy it spreads and the curious symptoms is carries, which include paralysis and hysteria alike. It has a very easy medicine, though: just know what you want, and be prepared to make choices. If so, easy ride
Full of opportunities.
I remember, when I first went to the US, when I suddenly understood why it was called the land of opportunity. Well, I feel LBS is more than a land of opportunity. In just one term, and leaving aside all the course work, I have seen three guys of my class set-up their own company, one girl become an intern for Emilia Wickstead, the winners Private Equity competition getting 5,000, 3 students become non-executive directors of charities…
If you want to get into investment banking, you probably have already done 15 coffee chats. I have received invitations from several different consulting firms (and I am talking the big names in the business) to visit their offices and learn about summer internships.
Companies know that good people come to LBS so established companies with fixed recruiting schemes, like investment banking or consulting, come straight to campus, but so do start-ups or other companies that need support as one-offs. There is an atmosphere of people that mean business, and things happen.
People are there to support you
There are lots of things organised around you so that you can learn, so that you can experiment, so that you can….
If you want to go into consulting, you have case interview practice. If you are unsure which part of a company do you want to go into, there are a series of talks called “What is…?”, that have people from that practice to explain what their job is like. If you feel your Excel skills are a bit rusty around the edges, there is a workshop for you. All of those are club driven.
The career services is there too. They have some mandatory sessions to discuss CVs and interviews, and lots of voluntary ones that talk you from networking to LinkedIn to lessons learnt from entrepreneurs.
The point is: there is a whole environment that supports your learning and your professional development.
When I reflect on those past 5 months, I know one thing for sure: I made the right decision to come here.
it has been a while since I last wrote. Why, you might ask?
Well, if I had to pick one word to describe this term, it would be: intense.
Final Exam week this week.
Still, since my words are limited, I thought I’d resource to the classics. They say a picture is worth more than a 1,000 words. How about a video then?
Let’s have a video-journey through the term:
Diwali Party dance:
For the Diwali Indian celebration, those that wanted got dressed and… learnt to dance!
Want to feel what it’s like to be in our shoes, or rather, in our seats?
Lecture from Corporate Finance on Capital structure:
Now let’s really be in our shoes. Even when it comes to exams.
Strategy Exam: we had to analyze the strategy, identify the challenges and give recommendations to the Hospital City in Cayman Islands. The case is summarised in this video:
There is a club for everything. There is a conference for everything.
Before starting business school I went to the Women in Business Conference. It was one of the best conferences I have ever been to.
And if you are a man, the point is still the same. Get a feel for the quality of the speakers and the conference itself, and if you think it meets your standards, rest assured: there will be one conference for a topic you are interested in (Women in Business, Energy, Asia,…)
I will come back soon – just one week more Term 1 is over.
So I decided to pursue an MBA degree. It is a thought process that many go through at some point in their careers. I did too. I even blogged about it. I finally decided to apply to the EMBA programme at the London Business School. Why, you ask? There were three very concrete reasons.
First was the structure of the programme. The modular format gave me immense flexibility. I could continue working and earning while I learnt. The format also enabled me to immediately apply what I learnt. Second was the nature of the programme. I am already past the individual contributor stage in my organisation. A General Management focus was just what I needed. Third was the brand name. Responding to the question ‘Where are you doing your MBA from?’ with ‘London Business School’ usually results in raised eyebrows (wonder, not suspicion) and a hint of a sense of awe. In fact, this programme fitted my needs so perfectly that I did not apply to any other MBA programme.
So, I started my application process. I have applied for full time MBA programmes at various top-ranked universities in the past. There is very less interaction with the admissions team until one gets an interview. With the London Business School EMBA, I had someone reach out to me almost instantly. The first thing I noticed was how nice she and everyone else I interacted with was. She was very courteous, knew all the answers to my (often frivolous) questions, and was prompt in her replies. It felt like they really wanted me to have a good application experience.
I went through the cycle of writing essays, re-writing them and then re-writing some more. The single most important piece of advice I can give you here, is that you must write from your heart. You’re combining so many pieces of information in your application that any discrepancies are visible almost immediately. Sure, you want to portray yourself to be the best candidate that you can be. But I think authenticity and honesty are valued immensely at the London Business School. I chose to focus on what I could bring that no one else could, on my unique story and on how much I would really love to be part of this programme.
Lo and behold, I had an interview call. I visited the Dubai campus on a scorching June morning. The interview started on time and I had senior programme members interview me along with the admissions committee. I liked the fact that selecting candidates was considered a task important enough to have such senior people present. They covered an exhaustive range of topics through their questions, and it felt as though they wanted to understand me from a holistic perspective. Now I recruit for my company, and have interviewed over a thousand candidates during the course of my career. But this was a different experience. I thought I was really good at reading people, but I came out of the interview with absolutely no idea of what they thought of me. I thought to myself, ‘These guys are good. I have never seen such a poker face.’
In the end, I didn’t have to worry too much. I got my offer, and I accepted it without hesitation. The poker faces have been replaced with warm smiles. Now, with two modules completed, I am even more confident that my decision to apply to this programme was correct. But more on that later.
This blog feels like an attic that I haven’t been to in years!!! Excuse me for a moment while I clean the dust…
There… Much better now!
I’ve been quite busy trying to earn my keep as an MBA Intern. Between June and September, I had the privilege of working with Shell International Petroleum Company here in London. I worked with the Retail Engineering Team – the people that manage the construction and maintenance of Shell retail stations all over the world. During my first week on the job, I visited a station that previously belonged to a competitor but was being converted to Shell standards, what is called a ‘KDRB’ – Knock Down and Re-Build. Suffice to say, there is so much thought and effort that goes into the construction and maintenance of fuel stations that the average consumer neither knows nor sees. All we do is get in, buy fuel, perhaps go into the shop, use the restroom, and then get out. But setting up a retail station to ensure that customers get safety, speed and ease of use – well, let’s just say I appreciate that team a whole lot more!
Working with Shell was a marvellous experience. My first paradigm-altering experience was with the lifts at Shell Towers. You know the story about the janitor/cleaner that tells the engineer (or was it architect) that he could put the lift outside the building instead of inside it? At Shell Towers, the floor buttons are outside the lifts. That first week, I had to consciously resist the temptation to stretch out my fingers to input my destination after getting into the lift, even though I already had done that before entering the lift.
More importantly, I enjoyed the collaborative and consensus-driven culture that operates at Shell. In my mind, the culture is a clear expression of the principle that no single person knows everything. While working at Shell, I had numerous interactions with lots of people within and outside my team – and they were only too willing to help. People thought nothing of spending significant time with me to help me understand not only the project I worked on, but also, the ways of working at Shell. In addition, decision-making processes are structured in such a way as to get the opinions and buy-in of a number of stakeholders, to ensure that there is broad support for initiatives executed. Obviously, getting consensus can slow down the decision-making process, but I guess that’s the trade off you get – speed versus support. That’s one of the core lessons from Strategy & Operations Management – picking a strategy and executing it; it’s about making a choice, prioritising a set of values or system over another. You can’t have everything.
The other thing I liked about working with Shell was work-life balance. Days I would get in by 8.00 a.m, and my floor would be empty. Days when I left by 7.00 p.m, I was the last to leave. In addition, it is possible to work from home (obviously pre-arranged with your manager, and if your physical presence is not required at the office). I did visit the gym in the building on some days, but seeing as I’m still packing pounds on my body, I guess I didn’t spend enough time there!
It wasn’t easy leaving. I felt a good kind of tired on the last day of my internship – like I had put in my all, and my effort was appreciated. I worked with amazingly great people (time to name-drop) – Bernard, Pedro, Graham, Gena – thanks for the wonderful experience!
So what’s next? Year 2 of the MBA begins! But that story is definitely for another time – hopefully not as much dust would have accumulated by then.
A year ago, I applied to the EMBA Global Americas & Europe. While I considered additional programs, this one was the only I decided to candidate to. Reflecting on this, I remember the application period as being both challenging and exciting.
Since I decided to apply, the application process took me about 6 months. For some of my classmates, this time frame was much shorter (for fewer, longer) but here is how I roughly split my time:
- Preparing the GMAT: about 3 months
- Completing the program application: about 3 months
Preparing and taking the GMAT is a must do that each of us has been through. I’m sure that for some it was a no brainer and for others it was more painful. I have a business background and I am not a native English speaker: my experience is that it is mostly a matter of perseverance. Taken individually, all exercises are do-able but the time constraint is adding up a little of spice. I bought plenty of books and spent about 100h practicing after work or during the week end. Just don’t give up at this stage, if you don’t score as high as you want, keep practicing.
When I first logged in the online application for the program, I was excited about what the non-GMAT part that would be ahead of me. Each section of the application had its own importance and I wanted to make sure that every single form was properly and accurately answered. Part of it is mainly administrative and most of it is about you, as a prospective student and future global leader. The essays were key, not only for the application itself but also for challenging me about my goals. I went back and forth to my essays and shared it with a couple of friends. I wanted to be 100% confident about every single line I wrote and asked myself: what is this sentence adding to my application? How does it help the recruitment team getting a better understanding of who I am and gauge the value that I can add to the program? My recommendations letters were written by people who knew me well and I had no doubt that they would share truthfully their thoughts. When I clicked on the “Submit the application” form, I felt like I did the very best I could.
Two weeks after I submitted the application (1st round), I received an invitation for an interview at the London Business School. I was happy to have passed the first step and I looked forward defending my case in a face to face interview. I was clear on my motivations and prepared a list of questions I haven’t had a chance to ask. The interview was run very, very professionally by two members of the recruitment team. They knew my application in details and while the interview was more of a conversation, I felt positively challenged during one hour.
A couple of weeks after the interview, I received an email which started by “Congratulations, …”
My recap of term 2: Undertaking the MBA at London Business School
It was a fast-paced term. It whizzed by before we even knew what was happening. From the first Corporate Partner Presentations in the second week of January down to the final core course exam on Sunday, March 23, it’s been one roller-coaster of a ride. Without the hurling, of course.
There’s a huge divide amongst the 2015 MBA student body, the haves and the have-nots. The haves, it seems, are walking with considerable swag, their heads held high, without a worry in the world. The have-nots are walking with swag (MBAs, after all!), their heads held level, with perhaps a sense of uncertainty about the future. I’m talking about… internships. Places in the highly coveted banking and consulting gigs are mostly (if not fully) taken. The 2014s, out of the abundance of experience, tell us not to worry. Their prevailing line seems to be summed up thus – ‘Everyone who wants an internship will get something. It may not be what you wanted prior to coming to do the MBA, but it’ll work out right in the end.’ Fingers crossed!
The high point of this term for me was my very first career trek to the United Arab Emirates – organised by the Energy Club. Best trek ever!! (I know, hyperbole, considering I have no prior experiences to compare with). But it was! Why? 5 reasons. Not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4…
- Excellent organisation (kudos to Bassam Frem & Marius van Straaten!!)
- Great group dynamics
- Free accommodation!!! (beat that, other LBS treks!!)
- We got to meet and discuss with leading companies and public sector institutions in different sectors of energy – Petrofac, GE, McKinsey & DEWA – to name a few. We learnt a lot about the current state and future of the industry in the Middle East
- Our hosts were very accommodating. In one case, we finished a company visit with a huge lunch, and started a second company visit with… wait for it… another huge lunch!
Sign me up next year!!!
Two awesome treks taking place during the spring break – the Japan trek, and the Morocco trek. Sadly, I am in neither place.
In conclusion, I was just reminded that school resumes in 2 weeks L. On the bright side, I have 2 free weeks J !!
It is day 4 since I came back from Mumbai Global Business Experience(GBE).
I am still sinking in how much I’ve learned in a week. There were many moments when I thought that GBE was the highlight of my 2-year MBA. I got to know so many classmates in such a short time and their amazing stories. I got to work with them and to learn from them, be it observing how they handled pressure, how they convinced the team to accept new ideas, or how they approached projects. I realized what a smart yet empathic group of people they are and how lucky I am to work with them.
I also got to know an India so different from what I learned before. I thought India would be very much like China, for both being the two most populous countries in the world, and both having fast economic growth as emerging economies. Therefore I was expecting to see a Shanghai in Mumbai.
But soon I realized that was not true.
On my way from the airport to the hotel, I saw so many temples on the street. I later learned that 90% of Indians are religious. I know this number of people in China may be atheism. I also saw most of Indians on street were wearing Sari proudly. Now when you are in China, unless it is a holiday or a big occasion, it will be weird to wear Tang Clothes, which is equivalent to Sari.
The biggest difference comes from the poverty level in both countries. I don’t know if it is because I was not exposed to similar situation in China before or because India indeed has deeper poverty level. I was surprised to learn people still having to live in darkness at night due to lack of electricity and I was shocked to see a whole family had to squeeze in a tiny and dirty place in the slum.
But I was not overtaken by these. On the contrary, I was struck by Indians’ resilience and optimism, when I learned that villagers are becoming entrepreneurs to sell solar light lamp to their community, when I saw that top talents gave up their high-paid jobs in London and returned to the country to help those people, and when I learned that people living in the slum work very hard hoping that one day they or their children will leave slum and move to the tall building next to it.
At the end of my visit, I realize what Mumbai presented to me may not be the metropolitan city as I imagined; but it gave me something much more memorable, be it the joy of working with my classmates, the hospitality from every Indian we met and the smiles on their face regardless of where they live, and the enthusiasm of social entrepreneurs who believe that they can make a difference in their country.
I believe that this experience will live with me for a very long time. So while I am still recovering from it physically, imagining getting up at 3am to catch a flight to visit the village and preparing presentation until mid-night for most of the week, emotionally and intellectually I have gained so much and it makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Mumbai GBE is just a miniature of my whole MBA life/work. The past two－year has been a growing and stretching experience for me. I’ve constantly challenged myself to come out of my comfort zone, be it learning/enjoying a technically challenging course, working hard to balance between academic and work, or staying open-minded and inquisitive to the world. While sometimes I felt that the challenge was beyond what I could take, but as a proverb says “life will never will give you more than you can take”, in the end I always conquered the challenges and I did it with pride. So if this is not enough from my MBA experience, what else could I ask for?
MBA Term 1 is done! Yes! <insert victory fist pump here>. I should say “Mission Accomplished!”, but then I remember this…
Thoughts on Term 1
- It was tough, tougher than I expected. I had the sense that I was always running: from lectures to study group meetings to tutorials to career services events to one or two social events. It seemed like there was no time to come up for air. The one time that hit really hard was taking 4 mid-term exams over a weekend (Saturday and Sunday!), and then having to show up for lectures the following Monday! At 8.15am!
- After my final Term 1 paper on December 15, it felt like a huge weight had been taken off. But then I had gotten so used to running that I felt lost when I realised there was no next event to run to!
- In Econ, we learnt about consumers’ Willingness to Pay (WTP) as a consideration in pricing. I’m coining my acronym for what I think is one of the best things about LBS: WTH (that’s Willingness to Help). Super thankful for the great group of very helpful people in this community – the students (study groups, tutors, etc), faculty, Programme Office, Career Services etc who’ve been great at explaining stuff and answering questions. You literally cannot walk the MBA path on your own.
- Another excellent thing about LBS – the diversity of the LBS MBA class. It’s amazing and makes for… a richer experience! Using my study group of 7 as an example of this diversity: we have 2 people from Europe (
SpainCatalonia & Netherlands), one from Latin America (Brazil), one from Asia (Malaysia), one from Australia, one from North America (USA) and myself from Africa (Nigeria). If that isn’t diversity, I don’t know what it is…
- In all, Term 1 was like a pilot – I learned a lot about myself and the programme. Looking forward to engaging Term 2 equipped with better understanding.
- In conclusion, happy holidays, everyone! And to those at Val Thorens, bon faire du ski!
On a lighter note… things we heard in class…
- “An unlucky camel is one that gets eaten by a polar bear in the desert.”
- (Pointing to a picture of Real Madrid star, Cristiano Ronaldo)… “Now, Ronaldo is listed on Real Madrid’s books as an intangible asset, but as we all can see, he is very tangible…”